Evaluating the benefits of public bicycle schemes needs to be undertaken carefully
Fishman, Elliot (2011) Evaluating the benefits of public bicycle schemes needs to be undertaken carefully. British Medical Journal, 343(d4521).
A letter in response to an article by David Rojas-Rueda, Audrey de Nazelle, Marko Tainio, Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen, The health risks and benefits of cycling in urban environments compared with car use: health impact assessment study. BMJ 2011;343:doi:10.1136/bmj.d4521 (Published 4 August 2011)
This paper sets out to compare the health benefits of the Bicing scheme (Barcelona's public bicycle share scheme) with possible risks associated with increased bicycle riding. The key variables used by the researchers include physical activity, exposure to air pollution and road traffic injury. The authors rightly identify that although traffic congestion is often a major motivator behind the establishment of public bicycle share schemes (PBSS), the health benefits may well be the largest single benefit of such schemes. Certainly PBSS appear to be one of the most effective methods of increasing the number of bicycle trips across a population, providing additional transport options and improving awareness of the possibilities bicycles offer urban transport systems.
Overall, the paper is a useful addition to the literature, in that it has attempted to assess the health benefits of a large scale PBSS and weighed these against potential risks related to cyclists exposure to air pollution and road traffic injuries. Unfortunately a fundamentally flawed assumption related to the proportion of Bicing trips replacing car journeys invalidates the results of this paper. A future paper with up to date data would create a significant contribution to this emerging area within the field of sustainable transport.
Impact and interest:
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